However, Smith didn’t commit the crime he is being charged for. The charges stem from an incident that occurred in 2015 when Smith, then 15, broke into two homes with four other teens in Millbrook, Alabama. Midway through the robbery police arrived and a shootout occurred between the teens and officers. Washington fatally shot during the altercation.
Although Smith didn’t shoot Washington, he was still charged with the murder of his friend as an adult under Alabama’s accomplice liability laws. Because of the laws, Smith “is legally liable for the behavior of another who commits a criminal offense if that person aids or abets the first person in committing the offense.”
The officer who fired the fatal shots at the 16-year-old, however, was cleared of all charges by a grand jury.
Smith received 30 years for murder, 15 years for burglary, and 10 years each for two theft convictions, to be served back to back. Upon receiving the sentencing from Judge Sibley Reynolds, the teen reportedly laughed in response.
“I don’t think Mr. Smith will be smiling long when he gets to prison,” District Attorney C.J. Robinson said. “We are very pleased with this sentence. Because the sentences are consecutive, it will be a long time before he comes up for even the possibility for parole, at least 20 to 25 years.”
However, Smith’s lawyer, Jennifer Holton, argued that the teen didn’t deserve the severe punishment.
“The officer shot A’Donte, not Lakeith Smith,” she said. “Lakeith was a 15-year-old child, scared to death. He did not participate in the act that caused the death of A’Donte. He never shot anybody.”
Earlier this year, Smith’s sentence was reduced to 55 years by the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Over 90,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking the United States Supreme Court to reconsider Smith’s sentence. According to the petition, the officer involved in Washington’s death remains anonymous.
NOTE: This article was updated on June 16, 2020.